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J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. (NASDAQ:JBHT) Is Yielding 1.1% - But Is It A Buy?

Simply Wall St

Dividend paying stocks like J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. ( NASDAQ:JBHT ) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason - some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. If you are hoping to live on the income from dividends, it's important to be a lot more stringent with your investments than the average punter.

A 1.1% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests J.B. Hunt Transport Services has some staying power. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 3.0% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NasdaqGS:JBHT Historical Dividend Yield, August 12th 2019

Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Looking at the data, we can see that 23% of J.B. Hunt Transport Services's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. Given the low payout ratio, it is hard to envision the dividend coming under threat, barring a catastrophe.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. J.B. Hunt Transport Services paid out 411% of its free cash flow last year, which we think is concerning if cash flows do not improve. Paying out such a high percentage of cash flow suggests that the dividend was funded from either cash at bank or by borrowing, neither of which is desirable over the long term. J.B. Hunt Transport Services paid out less in dividends than it reported in profits, but unfortunately it didn't generate enough free cash flow to cover the dividend. Were it to repeatedly pay dividends that were not well covered by cash flow, this could be a risk to J.B. Hunt Transport Services's ability to maintain its dividend.

We update our data on J.B. Hunt Transport Services every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

Before buying a stock for its income, we want to see if the dividends have been stable in the past, and if the company has a track record of maintaining its dividend. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of J.B. Hunt Transport Services's dividend payments. During this period the dividend has been stable, which could imply the business could have relatively consistent earnings power. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.40 in 2009, compared to US$1.04 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 10% a year over that time.

Dividends have been growing pretty quickly, and even more impressively, they haven't experienced any notable falls during this period.

Dividend Growth Potential

Dividend payments have been consistent over the past few years, but we should always check if earnings per share (EPS) are growing, as this will help maintain the purchasing power of the dividend. Earnings have grown at around 8.4% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! A low payout ratio and strong historical earnings growth suggests J.B. Hunt Transport Services has been effectively reinvesting in its business. We think this generally bodes well for its dividend prospects.

Conclusion

When we look at a dividend stock, we need to form a judgement on whether the dividend will grow, if the company is able to maintain it in a wide range of economic circumstances, and if the dividend payout is sustainable. First, we like J.B. Hunt Transport Services's low dividend payout ratio, although we're a bit concerned that it paid out a substantially higher percentage of its free cash flow. Earnings per share have not been growing, but we respect a company that maintains a relatively stable dividend. Overall we think J.B. Hunt Transport Services is an interesting dividend stock, although it could be better.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 20 J.B. Hunt Transport Services analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company .

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com . This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.